Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Review of "Wolverton Station" [by Joe Hill]

This isn't a recession, you know.  This is reality.  You people are finding out the actual worth of the things you make: your sneakers, your software, your coffee, your myths.  You people are finding out now what it's like when you push too far into the deep, dark woods.

About a month ago, Amazon released a new e-book from Joe Hill, a short story called "Wolverton Station."  It isn't, technically-speaking, actually a new story; it made a prior appearance in a magazine in 2011, just so's you know.  
For whatever reason, it took me until now to make time to actually sit down at the computer and read it (I don't have a Kindle, so have to use the Kindle PC app, like a savage).  But having read it finally, I am here to give you a quick thumbs-up/thumbs-down.

Thumbs most definitely up.

This is a fantastical horror story, one that has the sweaty what-the-fuck persuasiveness of really weird, yet also really lucid, nightmares.

I don't want to give away too much about what happens, but I can give you a decent setup with spoiling much of anything: Saunders, an American businessman who is the big mover-and-shaker behind a worldwide coffee-shop chain called Jimi Coffee, is on a train in England.  He is there having opened a new store, and in the story's first few pages, we get a sense of what this fellow is like: his chain is predatory, prone to open up right across the street from mom-n-pop coffee shops and use its significant capital to simply play the long game, siphoning off their customers as long as it takes to shut them down.

Saunders does this ruthlessly and without pity, regret, or mercy.  Which is a lot of adjectives/adverbs to put in a single sentence, but this dude is serious business.  Earlier in life, he had been a bit of a hippie, traveling the world on a Beatles-inspired quest to London first, but eventually as far as Kashmir, where he became disenchanted with the meditation and chanting and whatnot and formulated a different plan for his future life.  This involved operating Burger Kings, and eventually led to his current lofty state of affairs as a multi-millionaire tycoon of the sort of coffee empire that prides itself on the fact that it sponsors ten annual full-ride scholarships for Third World kids to go to American colleges.

Saunders thinks about all of this remorselessly, and also thinks about the protestors that sometimes -- frequently, even -- greet the opening of new Jimi Coffee stores in England.  He feels no animosity toward the hipsters who do the protesting; the way he looks at it, in a few years they'll transmogrify into businessmen and housewives, and they'll spend plenty of money at Jimi Coffee, and if they think about the fact that they once protested the place at all it will only be to reflect on how naive they used to be.

Which is why, when Saunders sees (in the story's first sentence) what he thinks is a protester in a wolf costume at one of the train's stops, he doesn't think a whole heck of a lot of it.

And that's about as much as I'm willing to reveal about "Wolverton Station."  It's a fantastic story, one that is sure to be a standout in Hill's next short-story collection, whenever that finally happens.

Go check it out!


  1. I bought this to have on my phone in case of emergency reading is needed so I havent read it yet but I read Twitter circus last night and thought the end was totally LAME. Did you read it?

    Sort of related about your anthology post, I like a lot of the stories in the Ray Bradbury Shadow Show book(especially the car accident one) and thought it would be a great place to find a new author but none of that planned out. I didnt think Joe's story was one of the weakest ones. But that did lead to Kate Mulgrew reading Nos4R2.

    1. I did read "Twittering," and I thought the whole thing was terrific. I've actually been meaning to write a review of it for months, but never get around to it.

  2. I meant I did think Joe's story in SShow was weak.

    1. Yeah? It wasn't one of the best, necessarily, but I definitely didn't think it was one of the weakest ones. That WAS a really good anthology, though; I read it in its entirety and was happy I'd done so!